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Holloway: Better days ahead for Big Red

POSTED: September 3, 2010 9:49 a.m.

It’s going to get easier. Repeat after me.

It’s going to get easier. That much is all but certain.

It’s going to get easier for Gainesville’s freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson, who saw his first high school football action against a three-time defending state champion.

It’s going to get easier for the five new starters charged with protecting him. In recent seasons, a large chunk of playing time on the Gainesville offensive line was hogged by group of three-year starters. When the new guys finally got their chance, there was no opportunity for a tune-up, just the hard-charging front seven of the Buford Wolves.

It’s going get easier for the Gainesville defense, which while breaking in seven new starters was last week was faced with a state title-winning quarterback who had a slew of talented skill players at his disposal.

It’s going get easier. That’s the good news for the Red Elephants.

Things will be better, wins will come with relative ease and praise will be lavished.

The bad news is that it may not start tonight. Because while the White County Warriors aren’t the Buford Wolves, that doesn’t mean there’s going to be anything easy about tonight’s game in Cleveland.

And it may not get much easier for the Red Elephants in the near future; Franklin County and North Hall, the two looming opponents after this week, are playoff contenders, too. That could mean trouble.

The last two Gainesville teams were stocked with upperclassmen and rare talents. Consequently, everything seemed to come easily to the Red Elephants: yards, touchdowns, wins.

This year’s team doesn’t have that experience and it doesn’t have that talent — not yet, anyway.

It’s not going to be that kind of team. Odds are long against the 2010 Gainesville squad posting the kind of blowouts that became commonplace during the era of Blake Sims and Tai-ler Jones. More likely, this is the kind of team that will have to fight for its wins and be grateful for the blowouts when they come, instead of expecting the blowouts and being disappointed when they don’t.

And the wins will come. The Red Elephants are still a favorite for a playoff spot, if not a berth in the region championship game. And they’ll remain so, regardless of what happens tonight.

That’s important to remember, because like it always seem to, White County fields a big, physical, experienced group of linemen on both sides of the ball. The Warriors also have do-everything Ashely Lowery in the offensive and defensive backfields, a talented young quarterback in sophomore Cole Segraves and some experienced receivers spreading the field.

If ever there was a year White County was poised to punch through Gainesville-North Hall stranglehold on Northeast Georgia, this would seem to be the year.

But just because it won’t be easy, doesn’t mean Gainesville won’t win.

As tough as it was for Red Elephant fans to watch as last week’s 40-19 loss, there were plenty of positives.

Again, start with the quarterback. All reviews from Watson’s debut have been positive. He completed more than half his passes and accounted for more than 260 yards of offense against the same defensive backfield that kept Calhoun’s All-State duo of Nash Nance and Da’Rick Rogers under thumb in last year’s Class AA state title game.

And though the defense was run over, around, and through for 33 first-half points last week, the showing belies the talent that remains on the roster. With a solid supporting cast around college-caliber players A.J. Johnson and Thomas Niles, it’s easy to believe improvement is coming.

If it comes soon, Gainesville will avoid its first 0-2 start since 1999.

If it doesn’t, just remember: it’s going to get easier…eventually.

Brent Holloway is the sports editor for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesbholloway.



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